Real Writers

Do you ever feel like an imposter when you tell someone you’re a writer?

It’s hard not to feel apologetic if you aren’t published.  It’s hard even if you are published and you’ve written for children or within the publishing industry.  That’s when people start asking “Where would I have seen your work?”  Or the ever popular, “Have you written anything I would have read?”  And then there’s “When are you going to write a real book?”  They mean one for adults even if that isn’t what they say.

The truth of the matter is that if you leave the unfolded laundry on the sofa because you’ve solved a plot problem, figured out what is wrong in the second act of your novel, or come up with the perfect beginning for your nonfiction picture book, you are a real writer.

Even if you write for children.

Even if you aren’t published.

Even if you haven’t yet submitted anything.

You are a real writer.

It may take a while, but eventually you’ll come up with the perfect response.  The next time someone asks why I write for children and why I  haven’t taken the time to write  a real book, I have an answer.

“I’ll pencil that into my schedule as soon as I finish researching deimatic behavior in cephalopods. For a children’s book.”

Writing for children let’s you indulge your inner geek and your inner child all in the same day.  What could possibly be more rewarding than that?


First Annual Writers Hall of Fame Tour

Travel from one side of Missouri to the other and meet nine Missouri authors including:

Cheryl Harness: This author/illustrator of 30 books lives in Independence.

Vicki Grove: This prolific author has over 300 articles and short stories to her credit as well as ten novels.

J. B. Cheaney: The author of 7 books including historical fiction novels.

Kate Klise: This author of 17 books collaborates with her illustrator sister.

Constance Levy: A St. Louis area poet who relies on the natural world for inspiration.

Dorinda Makana Onalani Nicholson: This author of three books and numerous articles hails from Hawaii although we are lucky she now lives in Missouri.

Lynn Rubright: Author and story teller, Rubright focuses on bringing stories to life through drama.

Eileen Bluestone Sherman: This author of three novels also relies on her background in drama and has adapted work for theater and television.

June Rae Wood: The author of numerous stories and poems, one of her  five young adult novels won the coveted Mark Twain Award.

Leslie Wyatt:  The author of more than 100 stories, essays and articles as well as one book, Wyatt is drawn most to historic and contemporary fiction.

You will meet some of the authors in their homes or studios and will also tour historic St. Charles, take a Mississippi River sightseeing cruise and dine on historic Laclede’s Landing in St. Louis.

The prices for this even range from $620 each (four in a room) to $858 each (for a single) and includes round trip deluxe motor coach travel from St. Louis, 3 nights lodging with hot breakfast each morning and manager’s reception each evening, plus 2 dinners and 1 lunch.

For additional information, questions or the itinerary, contact David Harrison at

It sounds like a great trip for anyone interested in children’s literature in the state of Missouri.  Why not take advantage of a great opportunity?


What Editors Want

Don’t you wish you look get a notion about what your favorite editor wants more than anything else?  Conferences, blogs and articles give you insight but this is one of those cases where more my very well be better. Take a look at the Editors listings on author Ellen Jackson’s web site.

Ellen has taken the time to compile information from a variety of web sources to let you know what various editors want.  At this point, she has two lists.  One for editors with names A to C and another for D through K.

The listings vary in length from one editor to another and include things like what types of books this editor does as well as specific titles.  Definitely worth a look when you are studying markets for a particular project.

Special thanks to Ellen for the work that went into this project.


January Goals: One More Week to Go!

Last week I whined about the 1000 word a day goal.  Whining aside, it seems to be working for me with a total of  6240 words last week.  I’ll be meeting two deadlines this week and starting several new pieces so I shouldn’t have any problems meeting the goal again this week.

As far as my January goals go, things are moving along well:

  • I’ve recruited speakers for article number 2 and have all but one interview done for article number 1.
  • I picked up the books I need to read to research one of the picture books.
  • It looks like the second picture book  I wanted to work on will rely on articles. I’m not sure I have quite all I need but I’m going to start writing today so that I know where the holes in my research are.
  • I got the newsletter off to the post office today and I’ll be e-mailing out the new 2010 production schedule to everyone this week.
  • I think the essay only needs one more draft to smooth out the bumps.  Hurray!
  • I have made great strides here in my office this week.  Take that, Year Long Goals!
  • And I drafted a poem.  One poem in one week may not sound impressive but since I hadn’t written a new poem in months and months, I’m happy to have gotten that notebook down again.

I hope your writing is coming along well too.


Be Scared and Do It Anyway

“Anything I’ve ever done that ultimately was worthwhile . . . initially scared me to death.”–Betty BenderWhen I was a graduate student, no one could imagine me volunteering to speak in public.  The first time I got in front of an audience was at the local historical society.  I kept a death grip on the  podium except when I had to turn the page in my notes.  This death grip kept me from keeling over.

Are you nodding?  I hope not, because public speaking is one of the best ways for a writer to promote him or herself.  Now, I do it whenever someone asks me.

Stop shaking your head.  I can hear you now.  “I’m not an extrovert like you.”

I may not be shy but I am a dyed-in-the-wool introvert.  I re-energize when I spend time alone, not when I’m in a group setting. But I did get over my fear of public speaking.  Children’s writers especially make a very kind, gentle audience.  Now I actually wander around the stage area and only get spooked

when I kick my water over.  But that comfort level was a long time in coming.

Does this mean I don’t push myself anymore?  I wish!  Last summer I discovered that getting up in front of the church to read something someone else had prepared scared me silly.  I haven’t figured out why, but I did figure out what to do about it.  I joined the church choir.

Last Sunday was the first time I didn’t have a panic attack in the parlor as we prepared for the introit.  Not one single person commented on my pasty color.

If I can get over it, so can you.


Research: Photos at the Missouri History Museum

Doing research for a story set in Missouri’s past?  Especially if you are dealing with something set in the St. Louis area, check out the digital content that the Missouri Historical Society had made available to the public.

You will find digitized historic photos as well as photos taken of artifacts in the museum’s collection.  Browse by collection name or search using various key words.

My search on “horses” delivered 147 results including references in articles, a 1908 photo of horses at a trough on Cass, a Civil War era letter, ads, portraits and more.

This is a feature I am looking forward to using.


Wednesday Poetry Club Contest

For the Poets living in the St. Louis area we have a contest sponsored by the Wednesday Poetry Club of St. Louis.

Each entrant must live within a 50-mile radius of St. Louis and may submit two poems which have never been published or won an award.  Also, entrants may not have one first prize twice within the last five years.  If that is the case, you are ineligible.

The deadline for entries is 2/1/2010.

Prizes are $700, $300, and $150.

There is also a junior level for students in grades 10 through 12.    Prizes for this level include $100, $75, $50, $25, and Book Prize.

For more on the contest, follow this link.

Special thanks to the Creative Writers Opportunities List which brought this competition to my attention.


Keep the Writing Flowing

Type type type.  You’re writing along and all of a sudden you hit a spot that just won’t come together.  Maybe you need to look something up.  Maybe you just can’t get a transition right.   Or your dialog just sounds phony.  What do you do?

Some writers let it bring them to a halt.  They sit staring at the flashing cursor on their monitor wishing they could keep writing, hoping that the write right words will come.  If the words do come, fantastic.  If they don’t . . . then what?

Kristin Nitz tells about the method she learned from author Leslie Connor who marks the spot she gets stuck with one quick phrase.  “Something Brilliant Goes Here.” Read about this method in Kris’s blog post of the same name.

What I do is just a little different.  I frame a brief set of instructions or a question between two sets of Xs.

  • XXwhat does it really feel like to chop down a tree?XX
  • XXhow did I describe this house earlier?XX
  • XXtwo different dates for this. Which is right?XX

This let’s me move on, marks where I had a problem and gives me some basic instructions for how to fix it.  When I reach the end of the manuscript, or another good stopping place, I go back to the beginning and then search for “XX.”   One by one I fix the various problems and smooth out the bumps.

What method do you use?


January Goals: Half Way through the Month

  • The writing workshop was last Saturday and, at least from my end of the table, it went well.  The group was enthusiastic.  I had one person stop me on Sunday and ask me to do another workshop sometime soon.  I even had someone step up and offer HELP.  Looks like I hit on something here.
  • I’ve recruited the speakers for one article and am working on gathering together the people I need for the next.
  • I made a serious dent in the research for one of my picture books and hope to have a first draft done by the end of this week.
  • I also added an essay to my to-do list after an e-mail I sent two friends came back with comments.  “Send this in to X market.”  Like I told the crew Saturday, coming up with ideas is so not my problem.
  • I’m not sure how the 1000 words/6 days a week goal is working for me.  I do a lot of short projects which means that I can complete a week  of assignments for one job and have all of 600 words.  Same with a picture book.  To make it work for me, and the kind of writing I do, I’ve included rewrites and talks in my totals.  This
    week I had roughly 6850.  Don’t know if that’s quite how I’m supposed to be playing the game, but this does seem to be increasing my productivity without making me nuts.1000words_150w

Hope everyone else has found something that does this for them!



Every now and then, you’ll want to submit your work to a particular market only to discover that the editor wants you to submit photos too.  Don’t write this market off as a lost cause!   Instead, learn to take photos to make your work more marketable.

I read a large number of blogs and love the photos that many of my fellow bloggers include.  “How do they do that?”

But with others, especially food blogs, I look at it and think, “Yuck!  Is it really supposed to be that yellow? There’s no curry or cumin in it.”

Fortunately, Crafting Daily pointed out this discussion on photography. You’ll learn why white backgrounds are often better than colored, what time of day you’ll get the best light for keeping your colors true and more.  I know I’ll be playing with my camera tonight!